Yanique Taylor shares how learning that she was HIV positive transformed her life and strengthened her faith. She is now courageously sharing her story to help others
It was a normal morning in June 2016 – a morning like any other morning in my life.
I was getting ready to go into work. At that time, I was working in the salon as a nail technician. My mobile phone rang. It was a private number. Normally I wouldn’t answer, but that day I answered. I don’t know why, I just did.
“Hi. Is this Yanique Taylor?”
Me: “Yes, speaking.”
“This is so on so from the Walsall Sexual Health Clinic. Can you come in as soon as possible? We need to discuss something with you.”
Me: “Erm, does it have to be today? I’m actually on my way to work.”
“Yes, it’s very crucial that you come in as soon as possible. I can’t mention over the phone, but you need to come in now.”
Me: “Oh. OK. Should I be worried, as this doesn’t sound good?”
“Nothing to worry about. But if you’re able to come to the clinic now that would be great.”
Me: “OK, I’ll be there soon.”
I took down the directions and hung up the phone thinking: “I wonder what this could be about?” Within 10 minutes I was at the clinic.
Now, at this time in my life, I was engaged to be married and, two weeks prior to this phone call, I had done an HIV test at the GP’s. I had gone in to take out my contraceptive implant, which I’d always been on because of my heavy periods. After removing the implant, the doctor asked: “Do you want to do an HIV test? It’s free and it’s just a quick prick on your finger. It won’t take long.” I replied: “Sure, that’s fine.” I did the test and left with no thoughts about what I’d just done.
Now I was walking in the sexual clinic, with no clue of what I was about to hear.
“WHAT? HIV? What do you mean?” By this time, I had blanked out and didn’t hear a word the nurse was saying.
I felt like everything around me had slowed right down and this was my new reality. The shock and disbelief had me trembling. Fear had kicked in and my confidence was stripped. For the first time I felt completely alone, as if I were in a terrible dream or nightmare. Was I going to wake up and it all disappear? But it never did.
The nurse asked: “Miss Taylor, do you have a partner?”
“Yes,” I replied. “I’m engaged to be married.”
“Are you OK to tell them, or would you like me to do it?”
I was in such shock I didn’t answer straight away. Tears flowed down my face, as I still couldn’t understand what was going on in my life at that moment. My head felt overloaded, with so many thoughts running through it.
I saw my mum’s and my daughter’s faces. I thought to myself: ‘I need to tell my partner. How will he take this?’ This was HUGE! The trembling got worse with the idea of sharing this news with him.
To my great surprise, my then fiancé took it well. He still wanted to get married and said he still loved me. He was required to do a mandatory test too and so he did. His came back negative.
My life has never been the same since I’ve been diagnosed.
Please understand that all this was unexpected, out of the blue. I took a test, for no reason at all. I didn’t have any symptoms, I wasn’t ill, nothing was there for me to expect a positive result. That positive result had a negative effect on my life. Or did it?
My mental health deteriorated massively from the side effects of my HIV diagnosis and medication. Suddenly I had become a HIV patient, which means appointments every three months to do my bloods, plus hospital visits to keep check of my overall health.
For the first two years, every time I visited the clinic, shame took over and I would cry profusely, as that was now my forever reality.
The doctors and nurses at the clinic made me feel at ease, and there was never any judgement from them, which made it easier to go and do my regular check-ups. After a while I started to look forward to going for check-ups, as my viral levels were going down and are now undetectable. This means I cannot transmit the virus, as long as I’m on my medication, which I have to take every day.
The nurse told me I can continue my normal everyday life, without being a risk to other people. It doesn’t change anything because it’s transmitted sexually, through using shared needles, or mother-to-baby transmission. I can’t infect anyone by touching, sharing food or hugging. Normal everyday activities would not affect anyone. So, I could go back to work as usual, without being worried of anyone being affected or infected.
None of what I’ve done since being diagnosed is me. Everything has been due to almighty God. He is who I have been relying on and turning to. He has worked on me to reach a point where I can boldly, confidently and courageously tell my story.
God has stripped me to the point of having no more shame. He told me to be weak so He can be strong. God said to me: “This is not about you” and has assured me He would never leave me nor forsake me, and that whatever I need I should ask, and I shall receive.
I am a Jamaican girl who came to England because she wanted a change and an opportunity. It hasn’t been an easy road, but with God the impossible has been made possible. My faith is what has kept me. The God I serve has never left me. Even when I thought He wasn’t there.
The first time I told my story publicly was at the Esther’s Academy – a programme for women I did at my church. Even though I was trembling, I did it and it was an amazing feeling. I felt a load drop off me. I recall before sharing publicly to a crowd, that, whenever I disclosed my HIV diagnosis to the people close in my life, I would burst into tears or had to have someone else present to at least start the conversation. However, once I realised who I was in God’s eyes, I was ready to tell my story.
My relationship with God changed, and that happened through a combination of prayer, fasting and reading.
The reason I’ve decided to share my story now is to bring healing and awareness, to break the shame and stigma around HIV/AIDS.
I now know that My story is Your story is Our story.
This is my story, this is my song.
My name is Yanique Taylor, and I am living with HIV.